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(Last Updated: 05 Jan 2002 )
Mother of God
Jesus Didn't Treat His Mother Like She Was Special
Queen of Heaven
The Scenario[A Catholic is on an airplane, sitting in the window seat reading a book about Mary, with the Catechism open in his lap as well, waiting for the plane to take off. He's joined by a guy who sits down in the seat next to him, smiles, says hello, and starts listening to a walkman. The Catholic gets out his Bible to double-check a reference, and his companion notices and they start talking.]
NON-DENOMINATIONAL CHRISTIAN: [Loudly] Hey, is that a Bible you've got there?
NDC: You're a Christian then? Where do you fellowship?
C: Our Lady of the Assumption parish, in town.
NDC: So you're a Catholic?
C: Yep. You?
NDC: I'm a non-denominational Christian. We have "no banner but Christ"! So, ah, what's that book you're reading then?
Mother of GodC: It's called Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God. It's very good.
NDC: Hey, would you mind if I asked you a few questions? I've just come from a Biblical prophecy conference where one of the speakers was an ex-Catholic. He was supposed to talk about current events in Israel and the book of Revelation, but he mainly just went on and on about how the Catholic Church is the, uh, the Whore of Babylon and how you guys worship Mary and how the Pope's gonna lead the coming one-world government and all that sort of stuff. Now, the only Catholic I know is the cleaning lady at work and she doesn't strike me as an evil supporter of the Anti-Christ, so I thought it might be best to get the story straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
C: Fair enough.
NDC: So when I came to the airport I told the Holy Spirit that the first Catholic I saw I'd ask about some of that stuff. So here we are. You're an answer to prayer.
C: Well, hey, lucky me. So what can I help you with, Brendan?
NDC: How'd you know my name?
C: Word of Knowledge. It's the Holy Spirit, you know how it is...
NDC: Hey, so you guys actually have the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church?
C: Sure. Plus you're still wearing your name tag from the conference.
NDC: Hmm. Very funny. OK, here's a copy of the notes from the conference [hands over copy of notes]. Since you're reading a Mary book, maybe that's what we could talk about. It seems to me like you guys give her a whole lot of attention that, to be honest with you, seems very unbiblical. You know, you call her the "Mother of God", "Queen of Heaven" - all sorts of weird stuff. This guy at the conference said you even worship her. Now, I think he was probably going a little bit overboard - he did seem kind of out there, you know, a few sinners short of an altar call, if you get my meaning. But even if he's only half right, that still leaves a bunch of problems, it seems to me. You guys do believe the Bible, don't you?
C: Sure we do. Catholics wrote half of it.
NDC: Uh, right. Well, whatever, I got a lot of respect for the Catholic Church, you know, how they stand firm against abortion and euthanasia and divorce and stuff - but it would really reassure me if you could give me some sort of insight into this Mary stuff, 'cause it sure looks dodgy to me.
C: Sure, I'd be happy to help. Where shall we start?
NDC: Do you worship Mary?
C: Only in May. Just kidding! Nope, there's rules against that sort of thing. Here, do you know what this is? [holds up Catechism.]
NDC: Well, it's not the Bible.
C: No, it's the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's where you look if you want to find out what the Church really teaches about anything. And when we look up what it says about worshipping anything besides God, it says "Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God" (CCC, #2113). Mary's a creature, right, she was created by God? So we're not allowed to worship her. Not that we want to. She's cool, but only God is cool enough to worship.
NDC: Well, what about this "Mother of God" stuff? Isn't that like saying she came before God, or she created God, or something like that?
C: Well, you need to know what we mean when we say "Mother of God". We are not saying Mary is the mother of the Trinity, or that Mary existed before God did. You know, I was at a seminar once where the speaker was bagging the term "Mother of God". He said that Mary didn't exist before God, so she couldn't have been the mother of God.
NDC: Maybe it was the same guy!
C: Could've been. But what he didn't get was, when we are talking about Mary the mother of God, we are talking about God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. No Bible-believing Christian denies that Jesus is God. So maybe it's best to look at it like this: (a) Mary is the mother of Jesus; (b) Jesus is God; therefore (c) Mary is the mother of God. Simple, really.
NDC: Well, I dunno...
C: Let me put it this way: you believe that Jesus, when he was walking around Palestine healing people and doing miracles and stuff, was God, right?
C: And when he was a kid and he got left behind at the temple, he was God then?
C: And when he was a little baby and the shepherds and wise men came and worshipped him, he was God then?
C: And when he was being born, he was God then?
NDC: Well, yep.
C: And when he was in Mary's womb, he was God then?
NDC: Yep, I guess so.
C: So what would that make Mary?
NDC: Well, yeah, OK, the mother of God. God the Son, not God the Father.
C: Yep, that's exactly it. Way to go.
NDC: Well, OK, that kinda makes sense. But why make such a big deal out of it anyway?
C: Well, there was a reason for it, actually. The title "Mother of God" is really quite important. It comes from the Greek word Theotokos, or "God-bearer", which was used at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD to defend the doctrine of Jesus' divinity against heretics who were saying that there may have been a point in time when Jesus was not fully God and fully man. But the Council sorted it out, and pretty much everyone has believed that Mary is the Mother of God ever since, even the Protestant Reformers. It's only people who haven't really thought about it properly that have a problem with it.
And it's Biblical anyway - we call Jesus "Lord" because he's God, and in Luke 1:41, when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth says, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'"
Jesus Didn't Treat His Mother Like She Was SpecialNDC: All right then, I can go with that. What about this though: something else that this guy said at the conference was that Jesus never made a big deal out of his mother. He quoted Matthew 12, where it says:
"While [Jesus] was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied ... 'Who is my mother and who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother'."
So this guy was saying, "See, Jesus was quite rude to his mother sometimes, so there's no way those Catholics should be making such a big deal out of her."
C: Well, the thing that gets me here is that he would actually think that Jesus would be rude to his mother. I mean, that would be a sin, right? He'd be breaking the 4th commandment, which is to honour your father and your mother.
NDC: Isn't that the 5th commandment?
C: Depends on your tradition. But that's a whole 'nother can of worms. The point is, Jesus is not gonna sin by being rude to his mother, so we have to look at what else he might have meant. I mean, Jesus would have fulfilled the Ten Commandments perfectly, right, so he would have honoured his mother perfectly. Right?
NDC: I guess so...
C: So what we've got in this passage is Jesus minimising family ties in favour of commitment to the Father's will. But if being part of Jesus' family means being committed to God's will, then Mary becomes even more of a model for us, because she was totally committed to God's will. She's the one who said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word". Right?
The AssumptionNDC: OK, fair enough. What about the Assumption then? You know what I'm talking about?
C: Yep, here's the official definition, from the Catechism:
"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." [CCC #966]
NDC: Yeah, that's it. Now show me that in the Bible.
C: Well, there's no verse that says "And then Mary died and lo! her body was taken up to heaven, and then the disciples went fishing". But there are a lot of clues to have a look at.
NDC: Well, one of those clues would have to get around John 3:13, which says "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man"
C: Fair enough. But there's a big difference between "assumption" and "ascension". Ascending into heaven is something that Jesus did under his own power, 'cause he's God and he can do that sort of thing. But being Assumed is different, because that's something God does to someone else. Mary's assumption is not something she had any control over.
Anyway, here's the first thing: have we got any Biblical precedent for this sort of thing, for someone besides Mary being taken up into heaven?
NDC: Gimme a clue.
C: Swing low, sweet chariot, comin' for to carry me home...
NDC: Oh, OK, Elijah!
C: Yeah, 2nd Kings chapter 2, Elijah gets assumed bodily into heaven by a whirlwind. He was with Elisha, and then "behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven."
Can you think of anyone else?
C: Someone who "walked with God" and then "was not, for God took him"?
NDC: Uh, Enoch? Sure, that's a weird disappearance, but it's stretching a bit to call that an Assumption.
C: Maybe, but his disappearance is mentioned in the New Testament too; in Hebrews 11:5 it says that Enoch "was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him". Anyway, that's not all. Have you ever heard of The Assumption of Moses?
NDC: No. Should I?
C: Not really. It's an old book from around the time of the Bible, but it's not Scripture or anything. But in the Bible, Jude verse 9, it says "the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses". And that refers to the story in this old book, The Assumption of Moses, which was about how the body of Moses was assumed into heaven after he died. And I think it's fair to speculate that Moses was taken up to heaven bodily, since at the Transfiguration on the mountain (Matt 17:1-8), who does Jesus talk to?
NDC: Moses and Elijah.
C: Yeah. And Elijah we know was assumed into heaven, so it seems likely that Moses was too. Can you think of anyone who will be assumed into heaven? In the future?
C: Ever heard of the "Rapture"?
NDC: Yeah, that's what half the conference was about, when's it gonna happen, who's gonna be left behind, what gonna happen to them...
C: Yeah, well, Catholic teaching on the end times is probably a little different from what they covered at the conference...
NDC: But that's a whole 'nother can of worms, right?
C: Yep. But we know what St Paul says: at the Second Coming, "the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thes 4:16-17). So Mary's assumption is probably something like what will happen to us if we're still around when Jesus returns.
NDC: OK, I never thought of that.
C: And what about the two witnesses of Revelation 11? They must have talked about them at your conference as well. St. John prophesies that three and a half days after they are killed they will be assumed into heaven - he says "And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud" (Rev 11:12).
NDC: You know, that's really interesting. But none of those passages of Scripture are about Mary, are they?
C: No, but the point is, the idea of Mary being assumed into heaven is in no way anti-Biblical, is it? In fact, what you see is that it's not unheard-of for some particularly righteous people to be taken up bodily into heaven. Now on to Mary... First of all, have a read of the book of Revelation, the end of chapter 11 and the start of chapter 12.
NDC: "Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery." Then there's a bit about a dragon, then it says, "she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne".
C: Cool. So first of all we have John seeing a vision of the heavenly temple, and in there, seeing the Ark of the Covenant. Now, are you familiar with Biblical typology?
NDC: Yeah, I think so. That's where we see things in the Old Testament that foreshadow something in the New Testament, like how the Passover lamb in Exodus points toward the real Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
C: Exactly. Or like how Moses and the Jews passed through the Red Sea and that is a "type", or a pointer, to baptism, or like how the manna in the desert is a "type" of the real bread from heaven, Jesus.
NDC: Yep, gotcha there. Are you saying the Ark of the Covenant was another type that points to something in the New Testament?
C: Yep. A lot of Catholics see the Ark of the Covenant as a "type" of Mary. Now that may sound funny, but let's think about it for a minute: Hebrews 9:4 tells us what was in the ark. So what was it? [Anybody know? Cue slide.]
[The Ark held the tablets with the ten commandments, along with some manna, and Aaron's rod.]
C: The ark held the tablets with the Decalogue, right, the ten Words of God, which were a "type" of Jesus, the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1). It also held the manna, the bread from heaven, another "type" of Jesus, the true bread from heaven (John 6:32). And the ark held Aaron's high priestly rod, which was the symbol of Aaron being the high priest, and that's another "type" of Jesus, who is our Great High Priest (Heb 4:14).
So the ark held stuff that represented Jesus, and since Mary held Jesus himself in her womb, that makes her the New Testament Ark of the Covenant. Cool, huh?
NDC: Yeah, well, I've never really thought about that...
C: Well, there are also some interesting parallels between 2 Samuel chapter 6, which talks about King David's attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem, and Luke chapter 1, which talks about Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Get a load of this [cue slide]:
- The ark spent time in the hill country of Judea, and Mary went to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth;
- David said "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?", and Elizabeth said "Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?";
- the ark stayed in the house of Obed-edom for three months, and Mary stayed in the house of Zachariah for three months;
- David leaped before the ark when he finally got it to Jerusalem, and the baby John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth's womb when she heard Mary's greeting.
Now none of that proves anything, but it is interesting, isn't it?
NDC: Well, yeah...
CATHOLIC Anyway, in John's vision in the book of Revelation, he's looking up into the heavenly temple, seeing the ark, and then that's replaced in his vision by a woman. The woman gives birth to the male child, who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. That child is Jesus, because the bit about ruling the nations with a rod of iron comes from Psalm 2, a Psalm about the Messiah.
NDC: So you're saying that since the child is Jesus, that would make the woman Mary.
C: Yep. I'm always amazed at how a lot of people can look at the Book of Revelation and see Russian attack helicopters and nuclear weapons and stuff, but they don't see that the woman who gives birth to the Messiah might be Mary.
Anyway, just like the ark of the Old Covenant was taken up to the old Jerusalem, the ark of the New Covenant was taken up to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is why in the Vigil Mass for the feast of the Assumption, we say Psalm 132:8 - "Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might."
NDC: OK, like you say, that's all interesting, but I'm not really convinced.
C: You don't have to be convinced; belief in Mary's Assumption is basically a matter of faith, and that's between you and God. But you do have to realise that Catholics aren't just making this up from nowhere; we do have good Biblical reasons for what we believe. Plus there's the historical fact that no-one's ever found her body.
But the Assumption is mainly about the dignity Jesus gives to the people he redeems, and Mary is a great example of what we can look forward to. The Catechism puts it like this:
"The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians"
Immaculate ConceptionNDC: OK, you're doing pretty well. I'll have a think about that. Here's my next question: the Immaculate Conception. Now, I always thought that was about Jesus, how Mary was a virgin when he was born. But that's not it, is it?
C: No, the Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus, it's about the conception of Mary. What we believe is basically that Mary was preserved, by God's grace, and because of Jesus, from the stain of original sin, and that she remained free from sin all her life.
NDC: Yeah, well I think you've got a whole bunch of problems with this one. You know, Paul says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".
C: OK, we'll get to that in a minute. Lemme set it up for you first. The main thing to remember is that we just believe that God gave Mary gifts that were fitting for her job as Jesus's mother.
When we talk about this we normally start at Luke 1:28, where the angel Gabriel says to Mary "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!". The Greek word that means "full of grace" is kecharitomene, which is a special kind of word, a perfect passive participle, which indicates that the fullness of grace is perfect and complete and enduring. But when we say Mary is "full of grace", we're not saying it's her grace that she owns herself or anything, we're saying she's perfectly full of the grace which she has received from God.
The Ark of the Covenant stuff is important here too. God's presence makes things holy, like the ground that Moses was standing on when he talked to God in the burning bush. God used to overshadow or cover the ark and occupy the mercy seat on top of it, so everything about the ark had to be made carefully and perfectly, and because it was the site of the presence of God, the ark was so holy that almost no-one could touch it and live. Mary was also overshadowed by God and she became the pure tabernacle of God the Son.
So when you think about it, it's pretty reasonable really.
NDC: You think?
C: Hebrews chapter 12 tells us to strive "for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Mary did more than just see the Lord, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and she carried God the Son in her womb. God is perfectly holy, and the closer we get to him, the more we must be holy. And Mary got closer than anyone.
Now, can you think of anyone else who was conceived without sin?
C: Anyone else?
NDC: Uh, the angels?
C: Hey, that's good! I never thought of that - but that's not what I had in mind. I was thinking of Adam and Eve.
NDC: But it was through those guys that original sin came into the world! I don't think you wanna be saying Mary's just like them do you?
C: Well, good call, but my point is more about the idea of Mary being the "New Eve", which is a theme we see very early on in the Fathers of the Church. St. Irenaeus, writing in the second century, put it like this: "the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary: What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith". Eve was conceived without sin but blew it; Mary was conceived without sin and by the grace of God persevered in that her whole life.
NDC: Yeah, well, that's all nice speculative theology, and it sounds pretty good, and maybe I could go along with it if it weren't for the fact that it's obviously unbiblical. I got three big fat problems for you. Here's problem number one: Luke 1:46-47, where Mary says "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior". Now if she needed a Saviour, she must have had something to be saved from, which means she must have sinned.
C: Well, that's not too big a problem, actually. We believe that Mary needed a saviour, just like we do. The classic picture of this is if you think about a big pit of quicksand. If you were drowning in the quicksand and someone threw you a rope and pulled you out, you could say that they saved you, right? But if you were just about to step into the quicksand and someone stopped you, they would also have saved you. In both cases you are saved, but in the second one you are saved without getting dirty. This is what happened with Mary.
NDC: OK, here's problem number two: In the next chapter of Luke, Mary takes a purification offering to the temple after Jesus' birth. But according to you guys, she didn't need to be purified from anything.
C: Well, this is a lot like Jesus' baptism. Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, and if you read Mark 1:4, you'll see that this was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Now Jesus didn't need to repent of anything, but he got baptised anyway, saying "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness". So he thought it was best if he went through with this sort of thing, because then no-one could say that he was slack in observing the right procedures. It was just like this for Mary. If she didn't do the offering, she'd be breaking the law of Moses, and she wouldn't do that.
NDC: OK, here's problem three (and this is the biggie), Romans 3:23, which says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". And not just that, there's the rest of the chapter, like Romans 3:10, "None is righteous, no, not one".
C: OK, "all have sinned" doesn't necessarily mean all individuals...
NDC: Oh, really? "All" doesn't really mean "all"?
C: Hey, it means "all", in the sense of "everyone in general". I mean, babies haven't sinned, have they, or severely retarded people who don't know what they're doing. It's like in Mark chapter 1, where it says John the Baptist baptized all the people of Jerusalem. Or like 1 Corinthians 15:22, where St. Paul says "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." But not all people have died (like Enoch, right, or Elijah), and not all will be made spiritually alive by Christ, because some people will choose to go to hell.
But the key thing with Romans chapter 3 is to look at the context. Read chapters 1 and 2 to see where Paul is going with his argument here. He spends the first part of the letter saying that both Gentiles and Jews are equally guilty before God. He's answering the objections of those Jews who think that they are right with God just because they are Jews and have the Law as their guide. He says that both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin. That's what he means by "all", he means Jews and Gentiles together; it's not just Jews that benefit from the work of Christ, it's all people, men of all nations.
NDC: Well, what about Romans 3:10, where Paul says "None is righteous, no, not one". Sounds pretty comprehensive to me!
C: Hey, Jesus was righteous, wasn't he? That's a pretty big exception, wouldn't you say?
NDC: Yeah, well, he's the Son of God. That doesn't count.
C: And Mary's the mother of God. Maybe she doesn't count either. The point is, Paul really doesn't mean no one's righteous, with no exceptionsor qualifications. If he did, then we've got a problem with a contradiction in Scripture, because Luke 1 verse 6 says that Zechariah and Elizabeth "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless".
But it makes a lot more sense when you realise what Paul was really doing when he says "None is righteous, no, not one". He's actually quoting from Psalm 14. Maybe we should have a look at that?
NDC: OK. "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."
C: There's your quote. That Psalm is about people who have turned away from God. It's all of them who are not righteous. And the Psalm is written about Jews, which is why Paul quotes it, because it shows his readers that Jews aren't automatically righteous just because they're Jews. But keep going.
NDC: "Will evildoers never learn— those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the LORD? There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous."
C: See, it also talks about God's people, the ones who are righteous. Like Mary was.
So you see once you look at Romans chapter 3 in context, it really doesn't become a problem for the Catholic idea about Mary being kept free from sin by God's grace.
And look, I've got a quote for you, listen to this:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin... thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin."
Guess who said that?
NDC: I dunno. Some pope?
C: Nope, it was Martin Luther, he said it in a sermon in 1527, on the feast of the Conception of the Mother of God.
NDC: All right, you're doing pretty well. I, uh, I still don't agree, but well, that's OK, I can see where you're coming from, and it's not as bad as I thought. It's kinda reassuring to see that you're not saying Mary did it all herself or anything.
C: No, it's all the grace of Christ.
Queen of HeavenNDC: OK, well that brings us to my next question. You guys call Mary "Queen of Heaven", don't you. I mean, it's right there on the title of your book. But, in the Bible the only time you read about a "queen of heaven" is in Jeremiah chapter 7 and chapter 44, where he rips into people for idolatry - they're offering sacrifices and worship to a "queen of heaven", who is really a pagan goddess. So it seems to me that that's something any good Christian would really want to stay away from.
C: Yeah, well Mary's title as Queen comes purely from the kingship of Jesus.
NDC: Well, sure, Jesus is king. But Mary's his mother - how does that make her a queen?
C: Well, here's the thing: Jesus came to re-establish the kingdom of King David, right, in fulfillment of the prophecies about the Messiah .
NDC: Yeah, I've got no problem with that. But what's your point?
C: My point is that in the kingdom of David, as in much of the ancient Near East, the queen was the mother of the king.
C: It was an institution known as the Gebirah, which literally means "great lady". The queen in David's dynasty was not the king's wife. Kings often had lots of wives, who were normally called "princesses".
NDC: OK, keep going...
C: The Gebirah had a throne, and a crown, and we see some of the ceremony associated with her in 1st Kings chapter 2. When Solomon was king, his mother Bathsheba was the queen, and what we see is this: "So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right." So the queen mother sat at the right hand of the king.
Part of the job of the queen mother was to intercede to the king on behalf of the people as well. Bathsheba went to Solomon to intercede on behalf of Adonijah, like we just saw. And in Proverbs 31 we read the advice King Lemuel got from his mother, the queen, like "Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverb 31: 8-9). This is one of the reasons Catholics ask Mary to intercede for us; it's her job.
The other thing is that the queen mother also guaranteed that the king came from the right bloodline, which is probably why both the king and queen mother are named in the books of Kings whenever a new king takes the throne. So, in Luke Chapter 1, when the angel announces that Jesus will be the new Davidic king, that obviously tells us who the new queen mother will be. And Elizabeth's greeting to Mary confirms it when she says: "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).
NDC: Hey, that's really interesting. We don't get a lot of sermons on Mary, you know. So I can see how she'd be the queen mother of King Jesus, but what about "Queen of Heaven"?
C: Well, Jesus is the king of heaven, isn't he? And look, remember Revelation chapter 12, and the woman "clothed with the sun", who gives birth to the Messiah?. This is obviously Mary. And we are told that the woman has "on her head a crown of twelve stars".
And hey, it's not just Catholics who have seen Mary as Queen of Heaven. Martin Luther, although he distanced himself from some aspects of Catholic Marian devotions, acknowledged that this title was "a true-enough name".
Perpetual Virginity.NDC: OK, we're nearly there. I've got one more for you, and I'm really curious to see how you're going to get out of this one. You guys believe that Jesus was an only child, that Mary stayed a virgin her whole life. Is that right?
C: Yep, we call it Mary's "perpetual virginity".
NDC: OK, well what about Matthew 12:46: "While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him".
And how about this, from Mark chapter 6: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" What do you guys do with that?
C: Well, the first thing you need to know is that the word used for brother, adelphos, doesn't necessarily mean a strictly biological brother. In Hebrew and Aramaic, which were the language Jesus and the people around him were mostly using, there aren't separate words for "brother", "cousin" or "close relative". So instead of calling your cousin something like "the son of the sister of my father", you'd normally just say "brother". And when the New Testament writers were writing in Greek, they normally just used the Greek equivalent of what the Hebrew or Aramaic would have been. So brother could mean brother, but it could also mean cousin, kinsman, fellow countryman, and so on. Like in the Septuagint, which is the ancient Jewish translation of the Old Testament into Greek, Abraham's nephew Lot is called his "brother" in Genesis chapter 14. Those "brothers" of Jesus are probably some sort of relatives, but not direct brothers and sisters.
There's no sign of them when Jesus was left behind at the temple when he was 12, and there's no sign of them when Jesus was on the cross and he entrusts Mary to John and not to any brothers.
Something else to think about is Luke 1:34, after the angel has told Mary she's going to have a son - Mary says "How will this be, since I am a virgin?". Now there is some evidence that Mary may have actually taken a vow of life-long virginity, and what she says here fits in with that. Otherwise it would have made more sense for her to say "When will this be?" rather than "How?". I mean, she would have known what has to happen before someone can have a child, but she still says, "How will this be?"
NDC: What about this: Matthew chapter 1: "When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus".
It says he didn't have sex with her until Jesus was born, which means that the situation changed after the birth of Jesus, right, and they had normal marital relations after that. Doesn't it?
C: Well, not really. The "until" doesn't have to mean a reversal of the situation afterwards. You could just interpret it as "before". I mean, think about this: in 2nd Samuel chapter 6, it says that "Michal the daughter of Saul had no child until the day of her death". Obviously that didn't change after she died, did it?
NDC: Well, no , I guess not...
C: There are plenty of other examples like this, which show that the word "until", by itself, leaves the question open.
NDC: Well, maybe, but I don't know if I buy the bit about "brothers" not really meaning "brothers". I mean, you've got real people being named as Jesus' brothers here: James and Joseph and Simon and Judas. This still sounds a lot like the Catholics are wrong. Sorry.
C: Hey, that's OK. But if you look at the women who were by the cross when Jesus died, you see that the mother of those "brothers" was standing there with Mary the mother of Jesus. They're not the same person. The trouble is, you've got to correlate three different Scriptures to figure that out, one from John 19, one from Mark 15, and one from Matthew 27, which is why a lot of people don't see it. [For more on this, see handout on The "Brothers" of Jesus.]
Finally, look at Galatians 1:19. Paul talks about meeting with Peter in Jerusalem for 15 days, then says [cue slide] "But I saw none of the other Apostles except James, the Lord's brother." So we see that James, the Lord's brother, is an Apostle. But there are only two Apostles called James. Matthew chapter 10 lists the apostles, [cue slide] and we see that the two people called James are "James the son of Zebedee" and "James the son of Alphaeus". It doesn't say anything about a James who is the son of Joseph or Mary. So this James referred to as the Lord's brother must be either the son of Alphaeus or the son of Zebedee, and he couldn't be the son of Zebedee, because that James was killed by King Herod before Paul wrote Galatians (see Acts 12:2). So this James the Apostle, the "Lord's brother", is the son of Alphaeus, which means he can't be the direct brother of Jesus, can he?
Conclusion[Cue stewardess telling NDC he has the wrong seat and should move up to first class with the rest of his family.]
NDC: Well, this has been really interesting, and thanks for clearing up some stuff for me. I still don't believe everything you do about Mary, but at least you guys aren't worshipping her or anything really weird like I was scared of.
C: Hey, it's been a pleasure. Just remember, anything special about Mary comes from Jesus. It's perfectly fitting that the Mother of God should be free from sin. The thing with Mary is, in a lot of ways she's the "prototype" of the Christian life. If anyone had a real personal relationship with Jesus it was her! And what happened to her tells us a lot about what will happen to us when we die and go to heaven, or at the Second Coming, if that happens first. See, when we trust in Jesus and get "saved", it's not just about what we're saved from; it's not just a get out of jail free card that means we won't burn in hell (although that's good). It's about what we're saved for, which is union with God in heaven. What Jesus did for us is more than rescuing us from the power of sin, it also includes our souls and bodies being glorified with him in heaven. And Mary, she was the first one to say "Yes" to Jesus, and she got to have the full effects of his redemption before anybody else will.
NDC: Sounds good, but I think I'll just take it easy with this Mary stuff for the time being. But one thing's for sure, I'll be taking any anti-Catholic stuff that preacher guy says with a grain of salt from now on.
C: Yeah, I think his focus is a bit wrong. Scripture says that all generations will call Mary blessed, not that we should go around trying to dig up dirt on her. But Mary's kind, she'll probably pray for him anyway. See you around!
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